that all of us stare too much at our mountain as if it is odd and wrong, the thing which happens to be made up of Jane’s wigs, the shadow it casts over the city something fierce until you walk closer to linger beneath its shadow where it strangely warms you and the vast becomes a woman sleeping after a life of dismay. Under such shadow a person might want to live forever because once near, as if one of the most generous gifts Jane ever bequeathed us, each wig holds the magic of absorbing dread.
True that the dread arises most from our city, host to the wigs, our city which has its own pipelines and turbines for sucking it out, not to mention the other sort of grit, loneliness and horror and that general anomie which keeps making us stumble over cracks and which had also been rusting everyone’s innards as bad as all get out, but the city kept failing us until we knew it did wish us all to get out though what held us back was that peculiar magic of the wigs which cast their spell, all of us having the pleasure of living under such a shape-shifting mountain of wigs which meant we were supposed to learn some kind of parable of mistrust from it but those who knew Jane understood that each time she cast a wig off onto the mountain so too went one of her tricks meaning that in her one fulsome life you started to see the vastness of what she herself would never call a mountain of regret.
One of Jane’s best tricks was to meditate each day on the death of each person she loved, a trick she did methodically, mornings after administering tea, her spine straight, belly straitened, tongue stowed in a corner of her unscarred cheek, and she began the inventory with her stubborn great-grandpa because generations were short in her line and she could easily track that stubbornness all the way down through me, whoever I was to her, not an old flame or has-been, not just her handy can-do person brought into this incarnation to serve as her difficulty, but also the person in her apartment best able to bark at the soul-patch pawn-dealer whenever he came sniffing like a cur, he being the kind of over-friendly mammal you often need to bar.
In those days I lacked patience with people who failed to understand Jane and her plaint, because I was not alone in knowing, say, her wheeze of happiness when she hugged you. Everyone else moved in rectilinear planes while Jane made clear her plaint had several timbres, issued as a whistling rasp, which made me begin to think people who could not understand her did not see her as that doomed heroine from a live show back in your parents’ time, cheeks pulled gaunt and majestic with a quirk in the lips that made you wish to suck out all the wry life knowingness she held in one corner of that mouth. She had that fun in her, she could be anyone’s adventure, and even as the mountain loomed you could see such fun spilling out, tragic like an hourglass with its golden sand flowing out the bottom, as if from her feet right after she had tugged off the stilettos that did a number on the lower curve of her spine where she always asked me to massage, I honored above all others, difficult but a person of service, and I did not even need her telling me I could not just live off the fat of her in her place and eat her joy as I did back then. In truth all of us were fat from how stripped down our lives had become and since July she too had grown more gaunt while her mountain of regrets grew, though once in an intimate moment with me alone, she called it the mountain of pleasures foreseen, telling me this in her apartment in the late afternoon while our eyelids blasted golden before we could see the dark outlines of things. Then a knock sometimes came to spoil the mood and you could see giant piles start to slip down, crows or worse perched at the base, as we started to be surrounded with people whose hypervigilant eyes darted toward recurrent pogroms because no one could help how dread could come pouring around a corner. Our neighbors knew to leave the neighborhood but we wished to stay, the last antipioneers who knew to cling, determined to stay on until finally one day the guy at the clinic down the way tells us Jane’s load is too high, her spirits too low, and we had to go on a kind of march, he shivering as he told us for he too walked in the valley in the shadow of wigs, and you see there was no way in that conversation for anyone to admit that if we did not make a move, soon the mountain could bury all of us in a landslide, Jane the kleptomaniac having gotten the most devoted of her flames, a man from whom she used to steal, no longer so tricky himself, to climb each morning on a ladder swiped from the razed local municipal works, an old rusted bowl that no longer even hosted skateboarders, he now the one to deposit the wig, she now the one forced to pay for wheelbarrows to carry them even as all the secondhand wig shops in a radius from our home were scalped clean so you had to travel from at least ten miles away in bad traffic if you wanted to see the mountain or Jane, and then pilgrims left the mountain feeling wistful and bittersweet, clean and bad in equal measure in just the way that the most diaphanous difficult experiences can scour a person into the same exact brilliance of afternoon sun glinting off the chrome of a 70s Impala hood. To get to the point, the thing you need to know about Jane was that she had never been in love, she only knew if someone wanted her, and the wigs, purloined or not, had their own trajectories, the pilgrims having taken on the trickless habit of stealing from the mountain so it had started to topple, she knowing as we did that we should all close up shop soon, but Jane was the kind to hold hard to old ways, she’d never wear Sergio and the pawnguy should come again tomorrow because for sure this time she was ready to kick not just her habit but all of us out of this blasted place to a better new one, she did not want to see us buried under a landslide of regrets, and we had to love her because she had so valiantly been a striver even as meaning had started its slow seep away from her soon after she got into the game, bones knobbed and breath now gulping, when what she wanted may have been just one tiny shiny thing surely buried at the very bottom of the mountain of wigs but it was not clear if she would get to see it. Only if the earth shivered would she ever get the true trick, only if the wigs found a way of sliding over their real promise which might still be love, that patient lover who had been awaiting her forever on the other side.
Edie Meidav is the author of KINGDOM OF THE YOUNG, a collection of short fiction with a nonfiction coda, and novels including LOLA, CALIFORNIA and CRAWL SPACE. She is on the faculty of the UMass Amherst MFA program and is a senior editor at Conjunctions magazine. Follow Edie on Instagram and Twitter.